Companion Animal Psychology News May 2019

Insect-detecting dogs, the challenges of science with cats, and spider's brains...

Companion Animal Psychology News May 2019;  photo shows banner


By Zazie Todd, PhD

Some of my favourites this month

“Three very good dogs – named Bayar, Judd and Sasha – have sniffed out the endangered Alpine Stonefly, one of the smallest animals a dog has been trained to successfully detect in its natural habitat.” Sit! Seek! Fly! Scientists train dogs to sniff out endangered insects by Dr. Julia Mynott.

“The cats performed as well as the dogs. But, foreshadowing a headache that would plague the field of feline social cognition, several cats "dropped out" of the study, according to the research paper. Some stopped paying attention. Others simply walked away from the testing site.” Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them? This post by David Grimm is a must-read.

“Many trainers advise against these types of collars altogether, in part because the risk of injury to dogs is significant.” Should dogs be shocked, choked or pronged? is a powerful essay by Dr. Marc Bekoff and Mary Angilly.

Do you show videos to your cats? At Lifehacker, Nick Douglas has compiled a set of videos of songbirds to keep your cat entertained.

“The changes wrought on dogs in the Victorian era were revolutionary.” How the Victorians engineered the dog breeds we love today by Joey Watson and Ian Coombe.

"Wouldn’t they [patients in the ER] benefit from a bit of canine attention and affection?  After all, many of them are stressed out." Do therapy dogs belong in hospital emergency rooms? by Dr. Hal Herzog.

Did you know that a spider’s brain can be up to 80% of its body? They aren’t companion animals, but bizarre brains of the animal kingdom from Charlotte Swanson at Science World is an interesting read.

“This type of barking is truly a product of (generally mistaken) human intervention.” Let’s tell it why it is: Why demand barking isn’t by Kristi Benson CTC.

"But what does “well balanced” mean in relation to a dog’s behavior? It doesn’t refer to a dog balancing a cookie on their nose." A well-balanced companion by Dr. Joan Forry.

“In coaching sessions and workshops, I've talked with many pet professionals who struggle with their own sense of worth and a feeling that they need to earn their place at the table. I can relate; I've felt that way too.” In Worth, Colleen Pelar talks to Kathy Sdao about imperfection, compassion, and contra-freeloading.   

A beginner’s guide to the catio trend has lots of photos of cat patios.


Animal Book Club

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This month the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is reading Animal Madness: Inside Their Minds by Laurel Braitman. It’s an intriguing history of madness in the animal kingdom, and what it tells us about ourselves.

Cover of Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman, this month's book


All of the books we've read are available in my Amazon store: https://www.amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub

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This month I’d like to say a special thank you to Sandy C and Connor and two anonymous people for their kindness. You are amazing, and your support really makes a difference.

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

This month, I was absolutely thrilled to interview Cat Warren about her book, What the Dog Knows. This was the book club choice for April and I highly recommend it. A young reader’s edition is coming in October.

I looked at a study that investigated whether dogs prefer to receive their favourite food or a variety of foods as a reward in training.  With results showing individual differences, both in terms of favourite food and preference for consistency or variety, it goes to show that you need to know what the dog you are training prefers.

Eight ways to help your cat go to the vet is full of useful tips including training your cat to go in a carrier, and how to get them in there when you haven’t done that training.

Most recently, I wrote about three important ways to give your pets choices. Do you do all three of these?

Over at my Psychology Today blog, Fellow Creatures, I wrote about cat owners, personality, and pet parenting style as well as how training methods affect the service dog-military veteran relationship. It turns out those who use positive reinforcement more often have a closer bond with their PTSD service dog, although the results do not say anything about causality.

Pets in Art

This month’s pets in art is by the famous French painter, Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte took two years to complete and is from 1884/1886.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte painting by Seurat


The catalogue entry from the Art Institute of Chicago says, “With what resembles scientific precision, the artist tackled the issues of color, light, and form. Inspired by research in optical and color theory, he juxtaposed tiny dabs of colors that, through optical blending, form a single and, he believed, more brilliantly luminous hue.”

The painting shows people relaxing on the banks of the river Seine on a nice day, except those at the front of the painting are in shadow, and there is a stillness to the human figures. I feel like the dogs have more movement. As well as several dogs, in the right you can see a lady walking a monkey on a leash. The monkey has significance, as well as the woman with a fishing rod, according to this Mental Floss article.


Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.

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